Six and a half years ago, at the age of 19, Garrett Clayton took a leap and moved across the country to Hollywood. Since then he has created quite a name for himself in the entertainment industry. With a successful Disney franchise under his belt, a dark new film that explores the world of the gay pornography industry, a successful live musical special, plus two new movies and a play coming out in 2017, it would suffice to say that Garrett Clayton is one of the most versatile actors in the game right now. You may recognize him from his impressively long list of roles in the last 6 years such as Days of Our Lives, Shake it up, Teen Beach Movie, The Fosters, King Cobra, and of course, Hairspray Live!.
Clayton, a Michigan native, started working at the early age of 13 doing commercials and modeling jobs in both Michigan and Chicago. It was then that he fell in love with performing and eventually went on to study musical theater at Oakland University. Clayton worked on a couple of different projects (such as booking a role as a dancer in a kids movie) but it wasn’t until he won a national talent contest and booked his role in the movie Virginia alongside Ed Harris, Emma Roberts, and Jennifer Connelly that things really started to take a turn in his career. Shortly after filming Virginia, thanks to winning yet another talent contest, Clayton booked a role on Days of Our Lives. It was on that trip to Los Angeles to film Days that Clayton decided he wanted to move to Hollywood and really give acting a shot. On that same trip, after filming his episode, Clayton was invited to a barbecue by some friends he met on set where he met the people who would later become his roommates - talk about fate. Shortly thereafter, he went back to Michigan, sold all of his belongings and took the jump, and I think we can all agree he made the right move. “I’ve always said that my journey has been a snowball effect, one opportunity has always come from another,” Clayton says about the whirlwind that started his career.
After arriving in Los Angeles, Clayton’s first priority was finding a job, any job, that would allow him to pay his bills and stay in the city where he could pursue his dreams. When asked how his job search went he laughed. “I actually moved to LA and got a serving job the next day! I was walking around in Sherman Oaks and I told myself I would not go home until I got a job. I walked into a bunch of places and eventually wandered into Crave Cafe where I told the manager that I would work whatever shifts they needed whenever they needed me. He hired me on the spot and I ended up working there for the next two years.” After securing a survival job the next step was to start auditioning. That same year he booked his first role with Disney Channel on the hit show Shake it Up! then went on to star in Teen Beach Movie and Teen Beach 2 and secured his spot as a staple in the Disney family.
Inevitably, the comparisons to other notable Disney heartthrobs started rolling in, such as the comparison to Zac Efron. Clayton however, doesn’t seem to be bothered by it stating “You know, I’m not completely shocked by it. People tend to want to pit us against each other, but everyone is always going to be compared to someone, it’s flattering. Why would it bother me to be compared to someone who is extremely talented and successful? If I wasn’t being compared to him, it would be someone else”. It’s hard not to see the parallels in their careers especially since both have taken on the iconic role of Link Larkin in NBC's Hairspray Live!, but Clayton is making a name for himself all on his own. We spoke about what being cast for Hairspray Live! felt like and the bond he shared with the cast (which includes Ariana Grande, Martin Short, Rosie O'Donnell & Jennifer Hudson.)
“Moments like that make you realize why you do this. It was so rewarding and I am so grateful. It was proof that if you don’t let anyone tell you ‘no’ long enough things are bound to happen.” He spoke about how close he got to Jennifer [Hudson] and how the cast is still in a group text even after the television special wrapped where they all can not believe it’s over and are wishing to be back in rehearsals. “It was amazing getting to work with such a talented cast. I still speak with Derek [Hough] and Jennifer everyday. We all can’t believe it’s over.”
While Hairspray Live! may have come to an end, it’s certainly not the last time you’ll see his face on the big screen. Clayton’s film King Cobra with James Franco, Alicia Silverstone, Molly Ringwald, and Keegan Allen was released earlier in 2016 at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film follows the early years of Sean Paul Lockart aka Brent Corrigan, the gay porn headliner and the subsequent murder of the porn producer who discovered him, Bryan Kocis. The darker role was a complete turnaround from his earlier work so we at Rogue had to know what the impetus was for the change. “After I stopped working with Disney I talked to my acting coaches and my manager. I wanted to do something different, but it wasn’t until I spoke with my mom that I decided to do it. I called her and talked to her about it and she said ‘you took a risk when you sold all your stuff and moved to LA at 19, why stop taking risks now.’ And King Cobra was definitely a risk,” he says. “I didn’t know what to expect, but Justin [Kelly] was so respectful. They were always asking if I was ok and were completely open to my input. Everything in the movie had a reason, and while there was nudity, there was always a reason for it and it didn’t feel gratuitous.”
This upcoming year, in 2017 Clayton already has two movies coming out, again diverting from his wholesome Disney roots playing the role of Zack in Welcome to Willits, a sci-fi horror thriller directed by Trevor Ryan, as well as the upcoming horror film Don’t Hang Up, a directorial debut by Damien Mace and Alexis Wajsbrot. He’ll be starring alongside fellow Disney alum Greg Sulkin in which Clayton says “feels like a 90’s horror film. It has such cool graphics and was extremely fun to shoot.” We also MAY get a shot to see Clayton on Broadway this Spring, as he is set to appear alongside Al Pacino and what Clayton describes as a “powerhouse cast” in the Broadway-hopeful play When God Looked Away written by Dotson Rader Williams and directed by Robert Allan Ackerman about the life of the famous playwright, Tennessee Williams.
Garrett Clayton’s range seems to know no bounds. At the young age of 25, he has managed to tackle the roles of the teen heartthrob, the sketchy gay porn star, the asshole jock, and the ever conflicted but sensitive Link Larken. He can dance, sing, and definitely act. So remember the name, because we have a feeling you’ll be hearing it a lot. We certainly can not wait to see what the future hold for him.
Check out Garrett's full feature in Rogue's Issue N°5
Photography by Isaac Sterling
Styling by Gorge Villalpando
Assistant Styling by Marquis Clay
Grooming by Mariah Nicole
Set Assistant BetsyBelle Camacho
Written by Laura Barrett
Location provided by Button Mash